I can’t lie y’all—I’m sick and tired of the global nightmare that is the coronavirus, which is why I’m not one of the people who feels squeamish about taking a COVID-19 vaccine. But it sounds like coronavirus might not yet be sick of us.
Scientists in the United Kingdom announced this weekend that a new strain of COVID-19 is spreading, a revelation that prompted the government there to institute a new suite of lockdowns smack dab in the Christmas season.
Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, said in a statement on Saturday that the new variant of COVID-19 “can spread more quickly,” and is to blame for the rapidly rising rate of cases in the South East of the country.
However, “there is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” he said.
The U.K. rolled out its vaccine program last week, with over 350,000 thousand people vaccinated already, according to Sky News.
But the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant, which officials in the UK say is to blame for 60% of new infections in London, has led the government to institute another lockdown and sharply limit people’s movements.
More than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home after a lockdown came into force Sunday in London and southeast England and the government scrapped plans to relax rules on socializing at Christmas.
The measures to control the fast-spreading new variant of the virus forbid household mixing in those areas and restrict socializing to just Christmas Day across the rest of England. Residents across the country were told to keep to their local areas, and extra police were being deployed at rail stations to stop people traveling out of London.
Countries in Europe are also already banning flights the U.K. as a precaution against transmission of this new COVID-19 variant, according to CNN.
But given the very connected nature of our world—as demonstrated by the far-reaching impact of coronavirus already—it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the new strain has reached beyond the U.K.’s shores.
Coronavirus appears to be the gift that keeps on giving, so I guess it’s appropriate that this news is coming just ahead of Christmas? Though at this point it’s also beginning to feel a little like Groundhog Day with the pandemic that never ends.